EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 6, 2014

Grassroots Cleanup

Community turns out to spruce up Merrimack River Park

HAVERHILL – Dick LeBlond, a lifelong Haverhill resident, loves two things now that he’s retired – singing in a barbershop quartet and the Merrimack River Park on Route 110.

The cleaning up the park took precedence yesterday as LeBlond missed a singing competition to lead a cleanup, where he raked leaves and picked up trash with neighbors, kayakers and one of the city’s Brownie troops.

“This is a part of the resurrection of the city, I really believe that,” he said.

For the second year in a row, LeBlond asked the community to help get the park ready for spring. Last year marked the park’s first open season in about 15 years.

It was closed by the city in 1998 after it became a place that drew crime, including drinking and drug use. LeBlond’s vision, he said, is to “give the park back to the community.”

The first step was getting Mayor James Fiorentini on board, which LeBlond admitted “wasn’t easy.”

Last year, the city opened half the park, and this year, Fiorentini has announced that an additional section to the west of the Route 110 entrance will open after a light fixture is up and running and a security camera is installed.

Though those in the neighborhood would still like to see the entire park opened, LeBlond said he is encouraged by Fiorentin’s decision, which will open up more parking and allow people better access to the river for kayaking and fishing.

“I think most of the people that live around here appreciate this. You can see it because they help out. I don’t do this alone, I’m just the guy that spearheaded it,” LeBlond said.

For Jim and Jamie Ferguson, who moved up the street from the park about four years ago, the cleanup was about building a better, safer place to be active. They both said they enjoy going for runs in the park and are glad to help make it a cleaner, more accessible place.

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